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Digging In the Dirt: The Origins of Gravedigger

20140609-095549-35749839.jpgCharity Grace – aka Gravedigger – has appeared in two solo volumes so far and she played a big role in Gotterdammerung, the “crossover” novel that paired her with Lazarus Gray and The Peregrine . She’s become one of my most popular creations, thanks in no small part to the stunning costume design that George Sellas came up with. But where did she come from? What inspirations led her to spring forth from my fevered mind?

What follows is an essay that ran in the first volume of The Adventures of Gravedigger. If you’ve read it before, hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing it again — if it’s your first time, expect a few insights into my creative process. I’ve tweaked it from the original in a few places, removing a link to the blog and altering the name of Max Davies’ costumed identity.

And now on to the main event:

Hello, Faithful Readers! I hope you enjoyed the introduction to Gravedigger, the newest member of my New Pulp universe that began with the arrival of The Peregrine. Since The Peregrine’s first flight back in 2008, I’ve added to the universe with Lazarus Gray, The Dark Gentleman, Guan-Yin, The Claws of The Peregrine and many more.

But none of them are quite like Gravedigger.

To understand how and why I created the character, we first have to go back to the misty past. It was a time of optimism and a surging economy. We were well on the way to electing the first Democratic President since Jimmy Carter. Grunge was filtering its way into the public consciousness.

It was 1992. I was 20 years old and in college, where I was working towards an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Then, as now, I was a huge comic book fan. Then, as now, I was a huge fan of the Valiant Universe. I loved the tight continuity it possessed and the way that little background events and characters would float from book to book, building a cohesive universe.

One of my favorite characters in that universe was Shadowman, who debuted in May 1992. A supernatural hero, Jack Boniface was poisoned by an alien, allowing him to “die” before being resurrected as an avenger of the night. We would later find out that he was only the latest in a long line of Shadowmen. I loved the concept and the series but it eventually faded away with the rest of the Valiant Universe.

But like all good things, it would not stay dead. Shadowman and the rest of the Valiant heroes were recently revived by a new Valiant. The promo art by Patrick Zircher floated around for months before the first issue actually debuted and I adored the revised look of the hero. It got me to thinking… Perhaps I needed to add a new title to my pulp hero collection, one that would serve as a “connector” series. It would have ties to all that had come before and would be the place where fans of The Peregrine or Lazarus Gray could come to get a taste of the greater universe.

I decided I wanted to make the new character a female, to balance out the male-heavy universe that I already had, and that I wanted her to be heavily supernatural as a nod to Shadowman. Like Jack, she would be the latest in a long line of heroes and, as with Shadowman and Lazarus Gray, rebirth would factor large in her origin.

From there, artist George Sellas and I tossed a few ideas back and forth. I had the name Gravedigger but I was afraid it was too masculine for Charity. He convinced me that it could be a neat twist on the name and concept. I told him my idea of tying Charity’s past to Samantha Grace’s origin, which he liked. It not only provided a link to the Lazarus series but also furthered the Grace family’s role in the overall universe.

Once I’d come up with the full origin and George had done his initial character sketch, I thought it would be fun to have a “hand-off” in the story. When I wrote my first Lazarus Gray collection, The Peregrine appeared, as if giving his stamp of approval on the new arrival. With this one, I wanted to have both The Peregrine and Lazarus appear in ways that would bolster Gravedigger but not detract from her starring role. I was inspired by the way Star Trek used to do this – Dr. McCoy from the original series was on the first episode of Next Generation, then Captain Picard from The Next Generation appeared on the first episode of Deep Space Nine, while that space station was a jumping-off point for Star Trek: Voyager when that series began. I thought was a nice wink and nod to the fans.

The decision to use The Headless Horseman in the book came about because I recycle everything. A few years ago, I wrote nearly 20,000 words on a novel I was going to call “Headless.” It was going to be a sequel to Washington Irving’s classic and would introduce a new hero of mine, Mortimer Quinn. I eventually abandoned the project but I always wanted to use parts of that story… so it ended up here. Tying Mortimer to the Gravedigger legacy was easy enough and allowed me to bring the Horseman into the story.

As for Charity’s allies… one thing that I learned from the Lazarus Gray series is that I like having a steady cast of characters to supplement my protagonist. But I didn’t want to create another Assistance Unlimited, who was inspired by Justice, Inc. Instead, I looked to another favorite pulp hero of mine – The Shadow. While Lazarus has a group of partners, The Shadow had a group of agents. There was never any doubt that Harry Vincent and Burbank were lower-ranking than The Shadow. That’s what I set out to do here – Mitchell, Cedric and Li all get their ‘origins’ here and we see what skills they bring to the table. All of them, however, are agents – not partners. Our heroine is the one that stands on center stage during the final conflict.

So where do we go from here? Obviously, the arrival of Mortimer on the last page suggests that there are more stories to be told here. The first Gravedigger book appeared in 2013, with a second in 2014. I hope to continue to update her adventures regularly, just as I have with Lazarus and The The Peregrine.

Speaking of artwork, I have to say thank you to George Sellas, for designing Gravedigger’s look and for the incredibly awesome cover he whipped up. Also, Will Meugniot’s interior illustrations perfectly captured the mood of the story, pairing Charity’s obvious beauty with her deadly nature. Thanks, guys.

Lock your doors, everyone. Gravedigger is hitting the streets.

What’s Going On?

Gravedigger_06_smallThat’s a good question!

I just sent off a mummy story that hopefully will appear in Flinch Books’ RESTLESS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF MUMMY HORROR, an anthology that will also feature work by John Bruening, Sam Gafford, Teel James Glenn, Nancy Hansen and Duane Spurlock. It was an honor to be asked to contribute.

I’ve started work on the third and final volume in the Gravedigger series, as well. This one will be titled KING’S JUDGMENT and will resolve the questions surrounding Charity Grace’s ultimate fate. I hope to have George Sellas back onboard for the cover and art chores on this one.

I also have something involving a new character – Babylon – that will be in the works soon. Steven Wilcox has been working up some nice images, based upon character designs from George Sellas. Stay tuned for more details.

I’ve been told that Lazarus Gray Volume Six should be out before the end of the year — and Volume Seven is written and turned in so hopefully that will appear sometime in the middle of 2017. If I can get Gravedigger written at a quick pace, maybe we could see it next year, too! Fingers crossed.

Our art today is from the interior of the first Gravedigger book and is by Will Meugniot.

The Black Terror

BLACK TERROR_col_smaller.jpegThe Black Terror is a character that dates all the way back to Exciting Comics # 9, published in January 1941 by Nedor Comics. His secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins”. The character proved popular enough to survive until 1949 and his distinctive costume made for some truly memorable covers. After the Golden Age, the character eventually fell into the public domain – which led to a whole host of publishers reviving him for various projects. Over the years, he’s appeared in books published by AC, Eclipse, Wild Cat, Image, Moonstone and, of course, the Reese Unlimited imprint of Pro Se Press. I first wrote the character for Wild Cat back in 2008 as part of a book called Legends of the Golden Age and later used him in a couple of stories for The Peregrine. More recently, I’ve gone further back into his continuity to incorporate him into my Lazarus Gray stuff. Because his “later” appearances were written first there are a few discrepancies in how he’s portrayed.

In my universe, we first see The Black Terror in 1934 and learn that he’s the creation of a United States military operation overseen by General Arbogast and a scientist named Kenneth Butler. The Black Terror was, in fact, a plant-human hybrid — he had literally been grown in a tube. His memories (all the “facts” from the Golden Age comics) were implants designed to create a backstory that would make him a better soldier for the United States government — Jean Starr was there to give him a woman to fight to get back to and Tim gave him a sense of family. Neither actually existed, except in his own mind. When Bob found out the truth, he broke free and went rogue — but his programming was strong enough that he decided to continue fighting as The Black Terror. In 1936, this led him to Sovereign City in search of a man named Maxwell Schmidt. The German was running Omega Solutions. In conjunction with another product of the same government program that created The Black Terror — a man named McIness that was codenamed Titan – Schmidt hoped to transform himself into an entity dubbed Prometheus. In the end, Schmidt died for his hubris and The Black Terror was forced to kill Titan, the only other entity like him in the world. When all was said and done, The Black Terror used the technology that had created him to grow versions of Jean and Tim — he implanted similar memories into their minds and gave them life. All of this was recounted in “Making of a Hero” from Lazarus Gray Volume Two.

The next time we see Bob is in 1938, nearly two years after the previous story. The Black Terror was now well-known as a scourge of the underworld and this brought him into conflict with two superhuman criminals: The White Worm and Cassandra, the witch. During the events dubbed Gotterdammerung, The Black Terror confronted these two and learned that something greater — and more dangerous — was at play. Bob didn’t have much of a role in the affair beyond that. This was shown in the Gotterdammerung novel.

black_terror_01_smallThree months after this (still in 1938), Bob is approached by Assistance Unlimited and offered a spot with the team. With Tim’s encouragement, he accepts and begins splitting his time between an apartment he shares with his young ward and a bedroom at 6196 Robeson Avenue. Jean gets a job as secretary to the new Sovereign mayor, Mortimer Quinn. Bob becomes the team’s scientific expert and also serves as the muscle in most battles. He forms close friendships with the team though he struggles with Eun’s homosexuality. Over the course of 1938 and 1939, The Black Terror aids Assistance Unlimited in battles against Princess Femi, The Librarian, Nemesis, Mr. Death, The Torch, Heidi Von Sinn and El Demonio. These stories are told in Lazarus Gray Volumes 6 & 7.

The events of the next few years are still to be told. We do know that in 1943, Tim is approached by The Flame and Madame Masque – they say they need his help with some sort of emergency and he departs with them (“The Ivory Machine,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). While this is happening, The Black Terror is working for the United States government overseas – he confronts a Nazi scientist that is trying to recreate the Formic Ethers (“Terrors,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). Once Bob finds out that Tim has gone missing, he becomes more violent in his dealings with criminals and is briefly wanted by the authorities for his actions. He is finally reunited with Tim in 1946 and aids The Claws of the Peregrine team (along with The Flame and Madame Masque) in defeating the threat of Rainman and Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller (“The Ivory Machine, The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). In the aftermath, Bob and Tim are offered a place with the Peregrine’s Claws team and they agree to aid them when possible. During these 1943-onward appearances, Bob doesn’t mention Assistance Unlimited so we’re not sure if he’s still associated with them.

I really like my version of Bob — he’s a solid, steadfast hero that occasionally gives in to his baser instincts. He’s sometimes troubled by his non-human origins but he’s too well-adjusted to dwell upon them.

Outstanding mysteries – what happens to Bob between 1940-1943? Did he ever have any follow-up encounters with the agency that created him? What becomes of him and Tim (and Jean) after 1946? It should be noted that the Tim of 1946 doesn’t look much different than the Tim of 1936, implying that these plant-human hybrids may not age the same as normal humans. Also, The Black Terror of 1946 doesn’t seem very familiar with The Peregrine, despite the fact that Assistance Unlimited and The Peregrine were allies. Is it possible that The Black Terror we saw in the 1946 story (and possibly the 1943 one) is actually a second version, grown at a later point? Or is it simply a case of an author writing stories out of sequence and screwing up?

Only time will tell!

Our artwork today is by Anthony Castrillo and George Sellas.

The Crossover Novel Gets a 4-Star Review!

black_terror_01_smallMichael H. Campbell has posted a review of Gotterdammerung over at Amazon.com. Here’s what he had to say:

4 stars – A Great Summer Read!

I enjoyed the story. It was a slow start, but once it revved up, the pace was quick and exciting. I was aware of the Peregrine (or at least I was when he was the Rook – I still don’t understand why the name change) and Lazarus Gray having read a collected set of each’s adventures. Well, I read the Rook Volume One and Lazarus Gray Volume One, so I guess that counts. I enjoyed both characters but Lazarus Gray was my favorite because I grew up reading the paperback reprints of the Avenger, whom Lazarus Gray is patterned after. When I saw this was a collection of Reese’s characters, I bought it and don’t regret it. I enjoyed seeing characters like the Black Bat, the Black Terror and others interspersed throughout the story. It is a great summer read!

Thanks, Michael! I tried really hard to make the novel accessible not only to folks that have read all the Peregrine, Lazarus and Gravedigger books but also to readers that were a little newer to the universe — it sounds like it worked for you, which makes me happy. The Peregrine’s name change came about when the old Warren Publishing character was revived by Dark Horse Comics. Rather than engage in any sort of legal dispute, it was easier for Max Davies to adopt a new identity — after all, the Warren character did come first! Besides, I think The Peregrine is just as good a name!

Glad to meet a fellow Avenger fan! We need more of them.

Thanks again for the kind words!

 

The Peregrine Flies Into Audio!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE! THE SOUND OF ADVENTURE! ‘THE PEREGRINE OMNIBUS ONE’ NOW AVAILABLE IN AUDIO!

Award Winning Genre Fiction Author Barry Reese, known for creating such fantastic characters as Lazarus Gray and Gravedigger, revitalized one of his greatest creations for fans old and new in 2015! Max Davies lives on as THE PEREGRINE, now as a top quality audiobook from Pro Se Productions produced by Radio Archives!

An adventurer. A man of mystery. A hero. Max Davies, newly moved to Atlanta, Georgia, finds himself unable to avoid danger, intrigue, and death. Donning the mask of The Peregrine, Davies seeks to bring justice to a world dying for it and peace to his own troubled spirit. And the only price he may have to pay is his soul. The Peregrine Omnibus One brings the first three book length volumes of this classic New Pulp hero’s adventures together into one massive two fisted collection. Fly again for the first time with Barry Reese’s The Peregrine!

Featuring a striking cover by George Sellas and a thrilling performance by Peter Milan, THE PEREGRINE OMNIBUS VOLUME ONE is available now at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/The-Peregrine-Omnibus-Volume-One/dp/B01I5TMGXG/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1468342585&sr=8-1-fkmr0

This classic New Pulp audio book is also available on Audible and Itunes.

THE PEREGRINE OMNIBUS VOLUME ONE is available in print and digital formats at Amazon and http://www.prose-press.com.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital eBook copies to review this book, contact Pro Se Productions’ Director of Corporate Operations, Kristi King-Morgan at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

Check out Radio Archives and the fantastic audio books, classic radio collections, and the fantastic variety of classic Pulp eBooks they offer at http://www.RadioArchives.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to http://www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Timeline of My Pulp Adventure Universe (updated 7/7/2016)

allstarsquadron_homage_clean_smallMajor Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Peregrine, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger and other stories.

~ 800 Viking warrior Grimarr dies of disease but is resurrected as the Sword of Hel. He adventures for some time as Hel’s agent on Earth. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as an headless warrior.

1793 – Mortimer Quinn comes to Sovereign City, investigating the tales of a Headless Horseman [Gravedigger Volume One]

1865 – Eobard Grace returns home from his actions in the American Civil War. Takes possession of the Book of Shadows from his uncle Frederick. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1877 – Eobard Grace is summoned to the World of Shadows, where he battles Uris-Kor and fathers a son, Korben. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1885 – Along with his niece Miriam and her paramour Ian Sinclair, Eobard returns to the World of Shadows to halt the merging of that world with Earth. [“The Flesh Wheel,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1890 – Eobard fathers a second son, Leopold.

1895 – Felix Cole (the Bookbinder) is born.

1900 – Max Davies is born to publisher Warren Davies and his wife, heiress Margaret Davies.

1901 – Leonid Kaslov is born.

1905 – Richard Winthrop is born in San Francisco.

1908 – Warren Davies is murdered by Ted Grossett, a killer nicknamed “Death’s Head”. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Peregrine Volume One, more details shown in “Origins,” the Peregrine Volume One] Hans Merkel kills his own father. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Peregrine Volume One]

1910 – Evelyn Gould is born.

1913 – Felix Cole meets the Cockroach Man and becomes part of The Great Work. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1914 – Margaret Davies passes away in her sleep. Max is adopted by his uncle Reginald.

1915 – Felix Cole marries Charlotte Grace, Eobard Grace’s cousin.

1916 – Leonid Kaslov’s father Nikolai becomes involved in the plot to assassinate Rasputin.

1917 – Betsy Cole is born to Felix and Charlotte Grace Cole. Nikolai Kaslov is murdered.

1918 – Max Davies begins wandering the world. Richard Winthrop’s parents die in an accident.

1922 – Warlike Manchu tutors Max Davies in Kyoto.

1925 – Max Davies becomes the Peregrine, operating throughout Europe.

1926 – Charlotte Grace dies. Richard Winthrop has a brief romance with exchange student Sarah Dumas.

1927 – Richard Winthrop graduates from Yale. On the night of his graduation, he is recruited into The Illuminati. Max and Leopold Grace battle the Red Lord in Paris. Richard Winthrop meets Miya Shimada in Japan, where he purchases The McGuinness Obelisk for The Illuminati.

1928 – The Peregrine returns to Boston. Dexter van Melkebeek (later to be known as The Darkling) receives his training in Tibet from Tenzin. Sheridan Masters loses his fiance Carmen in a terrible mystic storm in Egypt. He is trapped in Carcosa for several years.

1929 – Max Davies is one of the judges for the Miss Beantown contest [“The Miss Beantown Affair,” The Peregrine Volume Three]. Richard Winthrop destroys a coven of vampires in Mexico.

1930 – Richard Winthrop pursues The Devil’s Heart in Peru [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three].

1932 – The Peregrine hunts down his father’s killer [“Origins,” the Peregrine Volume One]. The Darkling returns to the United States.

1933 – Jacob Trench uncovers Lucifer’s Cage. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Peregrine Volume One] The Peregrine battles Doctor York [All-Star Pulp Comics # 1] After a failed attempt at betraying The Illuminati, Richard Winthrop wakes up on the shores of Sovereign City with no memory of his name or past. He has only one clue to his past in his possession: a small medallion adorned with the words Lazarus Gray and the image of a naked man with the head of a lion. [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One]. The man who would eventually call himself Paul Alfred Müller-Murnau arrives in Sovereign on the same night as Lazarus Gray. [“Nemesis,” Lazarus Gray Volume Six].

1934 – Now calling himself Lazarus Gray, Richard Winthrop forms Assistance Unlimited in Sovereign City. He recruits Samantha Grace, Morgan Watts and Eun Jiwon [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] Walther Lunt aids German scientists in unleashing the power Die Glocke, which in turn frees the demonic forces of Satan’s Circus [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The entity who will become known as The Black Terror is created [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two].

1935 – Felix Cole and his daughter Betsy seek out the Book of Eibon. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History] Assistance Unlimited undertakes a number of missions, defeating the likes of Walther Lunt, Doc Pemberley, Malcolm Goodwill & Black Heart, Princess Femi & The Undying, Mr. Skull, The Axeman and The Yellow Claw [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” “The Devil’s Bible,” “The Corpse Screams at Midnight,” “The Burning Skull,” “The Axeman of Sovereign City,” and “The God of Hate,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] The Peregrine journeys to Sovereign City and teams up with Assistance Unlimited to battle Devil Face. They also encounter a new hero – The Dark Gentleman. [“Darkness, Spreading Its Wings of Black,” The Peregrine Volume Two and Lazarus Gray Volume One)]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited become embroiled in the search for Die Glocke [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]

1936 – Assistance Unlimited completes their hunt for Die Glocke and confronts the threat of Jack-In-Irons. Abigail Cross and Jakob Sporrenberg join Assistance Unlimited [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The Peregrine moves to Atlanta and recovers the Dagger of Elohim from Felix Darkholme. The Peregrine meets Evelyn Gould. The Peregrine battles Jacob Trench. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Peregrine Volume One]. Reed Barrows revives Camilla. [“Kingdom of Blood,” The Peregrine Volume One]. Kevin Atwill is abandoned in the Amazonian jungle by his friends, a victim of the Gorgon legacy. [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Peregrine Volume One]. Nathaniel Caine’s lover is killed by Tweedledum while Dan Daring looks on [“Catalyst,” The Peregrine Volume One] Assistance Unlimited teams up with The Black Terror to battle Promethus and The Titan in South America [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. Doc Pemberley allies himself with Abraham Klee, Stanley Davis and Constance Majestros to form Murder Unlimited. Lazarus Gray is able to defeat this confederation of evil and Pemberley finds himself the victim of Doctor Satan’s machinations [“Murder Unlimited,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Lazarus Gray is forced to compete with The Darkling for possession of a set of demonic bones. During the course of this, a member of Assistance Unlimited becomes Eidolon. [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Charity Grace dies and is reborn as the first female Gravedigger. [Gravedigger Volume One]. Dr. York attempts to revive Princess Femi so that she can aid him in battling The Peregrine [“The Peregrine Animated Script,” The Peregrine Volume Three]. The Dark Gentleman confronts The Shadow Court and brings them to justice. [“The Judgment of the Shadow Court,” The Adventures of The Dark Gentleman Book One]. A few weeks later, The Dark Gentleman learns the truth about Amadeus Crouch [“The Silver Room,” The Adventures of The Dark Gentleman Book Two].

1937 – Max and Evelyn marry. Camilla attempts to create Kingdom of Blood. World’s ancient vampires awaken and the Peregrine is ‘marked’ by Nyarlathotep. Gerhard Klempt’s experiments are halted. William McKenzie becomes Chief of Police in Atlanta. The Peregrine meets Benson, who clears his record with the police. [“Kingdom of Blood,” the Peregrine Volume One]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited teams up with Thunder Jim Wade to confront the deadly threat of Leviathan (“Leviathan Rising”, Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Hank Wilbon is murdered, leading to his eventual resurrection as the Reaper. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” The Peregrine Volume One]. The Peregrine and Evelyn become unwelcome guests of Baron Werner Prescott, eventually foiling his attempts to create an artificial island and a weather-controlling weapon for the Nazis [“The Killing Games,” The Peregrine Volume Three] Gravedigger confronts a series of terrible threats in Sovereign City, including Thanatos, a gender-swapping satanic cult and The Headless Horseman. Charity and Samantha Grace make peace about their status as half-sisters. [Gravedigger Volume One] Lazarus Gray teams with Eidolon and The Darkling to combat Doctor Satan [“Satan’s Circus,” Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Lazarus Gray battles the forces of Wilson Brisk and Skyrider. The Three Sisters are unleashed upon Sovereign City [“The Felonious Financier,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. Gravedigger confronts the twin threats of Hiroshi Tamaki and the immortal known as Pandora [Gravedigger Volume Two]. Lazarus Gray travels to Cape Noire to investigate the mysterious vigilante known as Brother Bones [“Shadows and Phantoms,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. The villain known as The Basilisk attempts to seize control of Sovereign City’s underworld [“Stare of The Basilisk,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. The Three Sisters unite with Princess Femi to combat Assistance Unlimited. Sobek’s attempt to destroy Femi helps lead young Madison Montgomery into a role as Femi’s handmaiden. Lazarus gets engaged to Kelly Emerson [“Immortals,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. Lazarus and Kelly are married. [“Wedding Bells,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five].

1938 – The Peregrine travels to Great City to aid the Moon Man in battling Lycos and his Gasping Death. The Peregrine destroys the physical shell of Nyarlathotep and gains his trademark signet ring. [“The Gasping Death,” The Peregrine Volume One]. The jungle hero known as the Revenant is killed [“Death from the Jungle,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. Gravedigger, Lazarus Gray and The Peregrine come together to confront the terrible events known as Götterdämmerung. Many other heroes – including The Black Bat, The Black Terror, The Darkling and Leonid Kaslov are caught up in the events, as well. The insane villain Mr. Death is created. [Götterdämmerung]. Three months after Götterdämmerung, Assistance Unlimited battles The Librarian and adds The Black Terror to the team. [“The Affair of the Familiar Corpse,” Lazarus Gray Volume Six]. Assistance Unlimited journeys to Europe where they reunite with Eidolon and Abby. The group then teams up with a Berlin-based hero known as Nakam to battle Mr. Death and The Torch. Lazarus Gray confronts the spirit of Walther Lunt and Baba Yaga. [“The Strands of Fate,” Lazarus Gray Volume Six]. Mortimer Quinn is elected mayor of Sovereign City. Paul Alfred Müller-Murnau learns of his role as Nemesis and becomes an ally of Princess Femi and Madison Montgomery. Femi gains possession of the fabled Emerald Tablet. Abby becomes warden of Tartarus. [“Nemesis,” Lazarus Gray Volume Six]. Assistance Unlimited battles an out-of-control Golem and an agent of the OFP codenamed Heidi Von Sinn. Kelly’s pregnancy takes an odd turn after exposure to an Aryan idol. [“Tapestry,” Lazarus Gray Volume Six].

1939 – Ibis and the Warlike Manchu revive the Abomination. Evelyn becomes pregnant and gives birth to their first child, a boy named William. [“Abominations,” The Peregrine Volume One]. The Peregrine allies himself with Leonid Kaslov to stop the Reaper’s attacks and to foil the plans of Rasputin. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” the Peregrine Volume One] Violet Cambridge and Will McKenzie become embroiled in the hunt for a mystical item known as The Damned Thing [The Damned Thing] Assistance Unlimited teams up with Sheridan Masters to investigate a deadly alliance between Femi and a masked villain called El Demonio. The evils summon Hastur, the King In Yellow, and Lazarus is forced to travel to Carcosa. Kelly learns that their unborn child is infused with Vril energy. Femi and Madison Montgomery are both apparently destroyed. [Lazarus Gray Volume Seven]

1940 – The Warlike Manchu returns with a new pupil — Hans Merkel, aka Shinigami. The Warlike Manchu kidnaps William Davies but the Peregrine and Leonid Kaslov manage to rescue the boy. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Peregrine Volume One] The Peregrine journeys to Germany alongside the Domino Lady and Will McKenzie to combat the demonic organization known as Bloodwerks. [“Bloodwerks,” the Peregrine Volume One] Kevin Atwill seeks revenge against his former friends, bringing him into conflict with the Peregrine [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Peregrine Volume One]. The Peregrine takes a young vampire under his care, protecting him from a cult that worships a race of beings known as The Shambling Ones. With the aid of Leonid Kazlov, the cult is destroyed [“The Shambling Ones,” The Peregrine Volume One].

1941 – Philip Gallagher, a journalist, uncovers the Peregrine’s secret identity but chooses to become an ally of the vigilante rather than reveal it to the world [“Origins,” the Peregrine Volume One]. The Peregrine teams with the Black Bat and Ascott Keane, as well as a reluctant Doctor Satan, in defeating the plans of the sorcerer Arias [“The Bleeding Hells”, The Peregrine Volume One]. The Peregrine rescues McKenzie from the Iron Maiden [“The Iron Maiden,” The Peregrine Volume One].

1942 – The Peregrine battles a Nazi super agent known as the Grim Reaper, who is attempting to gather the Crystal Skulls [“The Three Skulls,” The Peregrine Volume One]. The Peregrine becomes embroiled in a plot by Sun Koh and a group of Axis killers known as The Furies. The Peregrine and Sun Koh end up in deadly battle on the banks of the Potomac River. [“The Scorched God,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. In London, the Peregrine and Evelyn meet Nathaniel Caine (aka the Catalyst) and Rachel Winters, who are involved in stopping the Nazis from creating the Un-Earth. They battle Doctor Satan and the Black Zeppelin [“Catalyst,” The Peregrine Volume One]. Evelyn learns she’s pregnant with a second child. The Peregrine solves the mystery of the Roanoke Colony [“The Lost Colony,” The Peregrine Volume One]. The Peregrine battles against an arsonist in the employ of Bennecio Tommasso [“Where There’s Smoke”, The Peregrine Volume Three]. The Warlike Manchu is revived and embarks upon a search for the Philosopher’s Stone [“The Resurrection Gambit,” The Peregrine Volume One]

1943 – The Peregrine teams with Xander to deal with the Onyx Raven [“The Onyx Raven”, The Peregrine Volume Three]. The Peregrine is confronted by the twin threats of Fernando Pasarin and the undead pirate Hendrik van der Decken [“The Phantom Vessel,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. Evelyn and Max become the parents of a second child, Emma Davies. The Peregrine teams with the daughter of the Revenant to battle Hermann Krupp and the Golden Goblin [“Death from the Jungle,” The Peregrine Volume Two] The Peregrine battles Doctor Satan over possession of an ancient Mayan tablet [“The Four Peregrines,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. The Peregrine travels to Peru to battle an undead magician called The Spook [“Spook,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. The Peregrine clashes with Doctor Death, who briefly takes possession of Will McKenzie [“The Peregrine Nevermore,” The Peregrine Volume Three]. Baron Rudolph Gustav gains possession of the Rod of Aaron and kidnaps Evelyn, forcing the Peregrine into an uneasy alliance with the Warlike Manchu [“Dead of Night,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. Doctor Satan flees to the hidden land of Vorium, where the Peregrine allies with Frankenstein’s Monster to bring him to justice [“Satan’s Trial,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. Tim Roland is recruited by The Flame and Miss Masque [“The Ivory Machine,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. The Black Terror investigates a German attempt to replicate his powers and becomes friends with a scientist named Clarke [“Terrors”, The Peregrine Volume Two]

1944 – The Peregrine organizes a strike force composed of Revenant, Frankenstein’s Monster, Catalyst and Esper. The group is known as The Claws of the Peregrine and they take part in two notable adventures in this year: against the diabolical Mr. Dee and then later against an alliance between Doctor Satan and the Warlike Manchu [“The Diabolical Mr. Dee” and “A Plague of Wicked Men”, The Peregrine Volume Two].

1946 – The Peregrine discovers that Adolph Hitler is still alive and has become a vampire in service to Dracula. In an attempt to stop the villains from using the Holy Lance to take over the world, the Peregrine allies with the Claws of the Peregrine, a time traveler named Jenny Everywhere, a thief called Belladonna and Leonid Kaslov. The villains are defeated and Max’s future is revealed to still be in doubt. Events shown from 2006 on are just a possible future. The Peregrine also has several encounters with a demonically powered killer known as Stickman. [“The Devil’s Spear,” The Peregrine Volume Two]. The Peregrine encounters a madman named Samuel Garibaldi (aka Rainman) and his ally, Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller. The Peregrine and his Claws team defeat the villainous duo and several new heroes join the ranks of the Claws team — Miss Masque, Black Terror & Tim and The Flame. [“The Ivory Machine,” The Peregrine Volume Two

1953 – The Peregrine acquires the Looking Glass from Lu Chang. [“Black Mass,” The Peregrine Volume One]

1961 – Max’s son William becomes the second Peregrine. [“The Four Peregrines,” The Peregrine Volume Two]

1967 – The second Peregrine battles and defeats the Warlike Manchu, who is in possession of the Mayan Tablet that Doctor Satan coveted in ’43. Evelyn Davies dies. [“The Four Peregrines,” The Peregrine Volume Two]

1970 – William Davies (the second Peregrine) commits suicide by jumping from a Manhattan rooftop. Emma Davies (Max’s daughter and William’s sister) becomes the Peregrine one week later, in February. [“The Four Peregrines,” The Peregrine Volume Two]

1973 – The third Peregrine is accompanied by Kayla Kaslov (daughter of Leonid Kaslov) on a trip to Brazil, where the two women defeat the Black Annis and claim the Mayan Tablet that’s popped up over the course of three decades. Emma gives it to her father, who in turn passes it on to Catalyst (Nathaniel Caine) [“The Four Peregrines,” The Peregrine Volume Two]

~1985 – Max resumes operating as the Peregrine, adventuring sporadically. Due to various magical events, he remains far more active than most men his age. The reasons for Emma giving up the role are unknown at this time.

Events depicted in the years 2006 forward occur in one of many possible futures for The Peregrine. As revealed in Volume Two of The Peregrine Chronicles, the events of 2006 onward may — or may not — be the ultimate future of Max Davies.

2006 – The Black Mass Barrier rises, enveloping the world in a magical field. The World of Shadows merges with Earth. Fiona Grace (descended from Eobard) becomes a worldwide celebrity, partially due to her failure to stop the Black Mass Barrier. [“Black Mass,” The Peregrine Volume One]

2009 – Ian Morris meets Max Davies and becomes the new Peregrine. He meets Fiona Grace. Max dies at some point immediately following this. [“Black Mass,” The Peregrine Volume One]

2010 – The Ian Morris Peregrine and Fiona Grace deal with the threat of Baron Samedi [“The Curse of Baron Samedi,” The Peregrine Volume Three]

2012 – The fourth Peregrine (Ian Morris) receives the Mayan Tablet from Catalyst, who tells him that the world will end on December 21, 2012 unless something is done. Using the tablet, Ian attempts to take control of the magic spell that will end the world. Aided by the spirits of the three previous Peregrines, he succeeds, though it costs him his life. He is survived by his lover (Fiona Grace) and their unborn child. Max Davies is reborn as a man in his late twenties and becomes the Peregrine again. [“The Four Peregrines,” The Peregrine Volume Two]

The Immortal Princess Femi

lg03_femi_smallA good villain can make all the difference.

With The Peregrine, most of his enemies were dead and buried by the end of each adventure, though he had a few (The Warlike Manchu, for instance) who made return appearances. When I created Lazarus Gray, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do with the series was to create a series of recurring villains. I wanted him to have a vibrant rogue’s gallery that could return again and again.

But which of his enemies stands above the rest? If our hero is defined by his villains, which of those foes is his dark mirror?

Obviously, Lazarus Gray has Walther Lunt, his former mentor. Lunt was a major force in Volumes One and Two but his death in 1936 (“Die Glocke”) has yet to be undone so aside from casting a looming shadow over the series, he hasn’t been a physical force since then.

So is he really Gray’s arch-enemy? I think he still qualifies but I do think honorable mention must be given to the immortal Princess Femi.

A beautiful Egyptian princess, Femi was involved with a cult known as The Undying. This group repudiated the Gods, believing that mankind was itself the highest form of life – they frequently shouted “God Is Dead!” as a way of displaying their blasphemous beliefs. In retribution, the priests of Egypt captured Femi and mummified her, using special magicks to keep her alive, in an eternal sleep.

In early 1935, she managed to make a psychic connection with a man who had bought her corpse, intending to display it in his house. The man used a powerful gem to revive Femi, who was reunited with the remains of The Undying. Femi was now able to control the undead but her power came with a price — she now had to feed on human flesh to remain young.The exact process that Femi uses to create her armies of mummified warriors is mystical in nature and bestows upon her followers great strength and durability. The tale of her resurrection and subsequent battle with Assistance Unlimited took place in “The Corpse Screams At Midnight!”

Her next appearance spanned late 1935 and early ’36, as Walther Lunt revived her to accompany him on his search for the Die Glocke.

Later in 1936, Femi was resurrected yet again by Constance Majestros, who formed Murder Unlimited in direct opposition to Assistance Unlimited. Femi and Constance were joined by Abraham Klee, Stanley Davis and Doc Pemberley. Femi and Pemberley became lovers at this point though the romance was a disturbing one for both parties. This time, Abigail Winters (a member of Assistance Unlimited) defeated Femi in single combat. She was placed in a locked room at 6196 Robeson Avenue, becoming a prisoner of Lazarus Gray. This adventure was detailed in “Murder Unlimited.”

At some unknown point, her body was stolen by the madman known as Dr. York, who attempted to revive her in Atlanta so that she might aid him against The Peregrine. This revival literally lasted only a few moments before she was put down once more and returned to the care of Assistance Unlimited (“The Peregrine Animated Script,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Three).

Unfortunately, she was freed a short time later (in the story “Eidolon”) and became involved in an attempt to revive an ancient devil. Working alongside a Nazi werewolf named Silverwolf, Femi ended up facing the mysterious vigilante known as Darkling. Darkling managed to destroy her once more.

Abigail vs. Femi, from Lazarus Gray Volume Three Abigail vs. Femi, from Lazarus Gray Volume Three

In Volume Five, we saw that her remains were kept in an urn at Robeson Avenue (“The Felonious Financier”). In 1937, she gets revived just in time for a group of Egyptians who serve the ancient gods to come calling in hopes of destroying her once and for all. Femi gained a handmaiden named Madison Montgomery, a girlfriend of Morgan Watts who becomes enamored of Femi’s power. The duo found themselves briefly allied with The Three Sisters (Selene, Phoebe & Fiona), immortal witches that sought to control Sovereign City. At the end of this adventure, Femi and Madison escaped the clutches of Assistance Unlimited. Madison was now empowered by a small fraction of the same energy that preserved Femi, making them a deadly pair (“Immortals”).

1938 will be a full year for the villainess – in the upcoming Volume Six, we see that she and Madison play a large part in the possible resurrection of a fallen hero. They will also team with Paul Alfred Müller-Murnau, the leader of an American Nazi organization. His role as Nemesis will help lead them to the fabled Emerald Tablet and help Femi transform The Undying into a public organization… a cult that plays upon America’s obsession with Egyptology to expand into positions of power. (“Nemesis,” Lazarus Gray Volume Six).

For her roleplaying game stats, you can look here.

Our art today is courtesy of George Sellas.

Lazarus Gray Volume 3 Reviewed

20130615-153603.jpgWojtek is back with another lengthy review – this time he looks at the third book in the Lazarus Gray series, which he says is the best in the run. Let’s see what he says:

When reading a series consisting of several books we can sometimes spot a moment, when author runs out of ideas, gets bored with characters, or simply stops caring. Usually it comes around third book, so one could think that the third volume of “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray” would be another victim of this writer’s curse.

But no, no such thing happened to Barry Reese, heck it gets even better than before, and I have to admit that “Eidolon” is my personal favorite out of all books starring Assistance Unlimited… Which You probably got from the review title… 😛

But let’s get into the book itself.

First we have a two-page comic “The Secrets of the Dead”, which is a really nice re-introduction to the character of Lazarus Gray, with great art by always awesome George Sellas. Despite being so short, the comic does its job, by giving it’s reader all necessary information about our protagonist, while also forever affecting our perceptions of them.

I mean, before reaching this volume I had my own vision of how Lazarus Gray and his companions should look, but now all I can see are the products of Mr. Sellas imagination.

It also helps, that his style is rather old-school, with sharp, angular designs, reminiscent both of the works of great John Romita, and Jack Kirby, and Bruce Timm’s cult-classic “Batman – The Animated Series”, which really fits with the Pulp atmosphere of the book.

If only we could get a full-blown comic book by Barry Reese and George Sellas…

Next we have, and I am not going to lie, my favorite story with Lazarus Gray ever, “Murder Unlimited!”.

Everything starts with our good friend, doctor Melvin Pemberley, better known as Doc Pemberley, who serves his time in Sovereign City’s jail after his last encounter with Assistance Unlimited, which understandably fuels his hatred for them, as well as his thirst for revenge.

But what can he really do while being jailed? Well, not much, but that does not mean, that he is left without certain options.

Using his knowledge of the occult, as well as certain items sneaked into his cell, by his lawyer, Doc Pemberley manages to use a rather dangerous ritual, that could free him.

He succeeds with summoning a demonic entity, that promises to free him… for a price of course.

Desperate, Pemberley agrees, and immediately finds himself on the streets of Sovereign City once again, but this time without any resources or backing of powerful criminals as he used to. But a man of his… talents, would always find someone willing to pay him for them.

This time it’s a mysterious woman named Constance Majestros, who has her own grudge against Assistance Unlimited.

Rich and powerful, she was once obsessed with youth and beauty, which led her to using a rather gruesome treatment discovered by her brilliant, but unhinged father. Using a special oil created from the bodies of dead virgins she was able to stop aging, and remain young and beautiful forever.

At least, until Assistance Unlimited uncovered their heinous deeds, and stormed laboratory of Constance’s Father. During the fight Eun Jiwon had knocked the mad chemist into a shelf of chemicals, splashing both him and his daughter with corrosive acids, that killed doctor Majestros and changed Constance’s face into a scarred, frightening mess, forcing her to hide it behind a thick veil at all times.

Now, she wants to regain her former beauty, but also to exact her revenge on Assistance Unlimited, and Doc Pemberley can help her with achieving both of those aims. But it’s not enough for Ms. Majestros, as she had used her fortune to hire others, who share her hatred for Lazarus Gray.

First, we have a frequent enemy of the Assistance Unlimited, the immortal Princess Femi, cursed with an eternal unlife by Egyptian priests, whose attempts at regaining power she welded in life were thwarted by Gray, and led to her temporally deaths twice.

Aside from being virtually unkillable due to her regenerative powers, she is also a powerful necromancer, able to raise dead as shambling monstrosities bound to her will, which makes her very useful ally for vengeful Constance.

Next we have one of the best assassins in the business, a man named Abraham Klee.

His father, brilliant but also mad surgeon, Dr. Adolphus Klee had used his own son as guinea pig in his amoral experiments, changing Abraham into something more than a mere man. Thanks to the operation Klee Jr. is able to use 90% of his brain capacity, which gives him no only an ability to process and analyze information at superhuman rate, but also has incredibly enhanced reflexes, which makes him extremely deadly.

Last, but not least is average looking man called Stanley Davis.

Despite not looking particularly impressive, he possesses psychic powers giving him a form of clairvoyance, that enables him to learn useful information about person, if he can get his hands on an item belonging to them, or describing them, like a photo.

This not only help his allies to plan their actions against such people better, but also gives them opportunities for blackmail.

Together with Constance and Doc Pemberley they form a rather unusual organization they call Murder Unlimited, as a mockery of Gray’s own group, due to being antithesis of Assistance Unlimited.

Ms. Majestros is rather rich despite her criminal past, but even her resources are limited, and bankrolling her own team of supervillains is not cheap. So, she decided to hire themselves to other criminals, just like Lazarus Gray does for the law abiding citizens, thus earning resources and improving their own standing in the criminal underworld.

Soon enough both organizations would clash with each other, but it is really hard to say which one would prevail…

I have to admit that I fell in love with the idea of Ant-Assistance Unlimited, it’s dark mirror image, as well as rather twisted relationships between our villains, their quirks, and motivations. Not to mention the fact, that Barry Reese’s villains are always interesting, and here we get a whole sinister, murderous package of them…

Actually, in my opinion this idea works a bit too well… I mean, Murder Unlimited could work very well in their own stories, because all of them are interesting, and have certain villainous charisma, that at times made me forget they were the bad guys here.

We had so-called “Villain Pulps” before, best known of which were the tales of sinister, yet honorable Doctor Fu Manchu, and masked madman known as Doctor Satan, and Barry Reese used those characters numerous times in his works (Manchu is an ex-teacher and arch-enemy of The Peregrine, who also clashed with Doctor Satan several times), so I can really see stories about them…

Here the whole idea of Murder Unlimited is rather underutilized, which does not mean they are not great, but ultimately they end up as just enemies for Assistance Unlimited to defeat, despite their tremendous potential.

We also get some development on our protagonists part, and their relationships, due to significant changes Grey’s team had experienced due to events described in “Die Glocke”, trying to work out their roles in the group, and getting used to each other once more.

Die-hard fans of Pulp would also be rather pleased with a surprising cameo by one of the most recognizable villains of the genre near the end of the story, which IMO improves on the original vision of the character, making him much more menacing, than he originally was.

As a bonus, we also get great illustrations by George Sellas, that only improve the story, especially the one showing us the roster of Murder Unlimited.

So, all in all, great story with incredible villains, and superb fight scenes, that is a must read for every Lazarus Gray fan.

Next, we have “Eidolon”, a story that would change Assistance Unlimited forever.

Lazarus Gray is contacted by the members of US military, who unexpectedly want to hire Assistance Unlimited services.

Their agents had intercepted a message from Nazi Germany, concerning our heroes old enemy Walther Lunt, about something called “Temple of Pain” collapsing, and containing a request about access to sorcerer’s private papers to help with the search of the mysterious “Body”.

As it tuns out Gray not only knows what the message is talking about, but is directly involved in the case… Or rather was, in his former life.

According to legends Temple of Pain was a home to a bloodthirsty cult of demon-worshippers, hidden somewhere in the jungles of Peru. Tales claim, that their brutal and unnatural rituals had gained the interest of The Devil himself… who was then killed by the frenzied cultist.

The man who had killed the demon had carved out its heart, that became an object of worship in the area, until all the cultists had died out, and it spent hundreds of years gathering dust in the crumbling temple.

Until six years ago an expedition founded by The Illuminati, led by Walther Lunt and a man who would become Lazarus Gray had found The Temple of Pain, and claimed the artefact for themselves.

But it’s not the only legend connected with the Temple.

According to Lunt, The Devil’s body was somehow preserved, even retaining some form of consciousness that enabled it to answer the questions of those who possessed it, or even teaching them the forbidden secrets of Dark Arts, making it very useful for all adepts of occult.

While the legend was discredited in the late 1800’s by a pair of investigators from Illuminati, named Caleb and Nancy Grace, apparently someone high ranked in Third Reich’s government believes in it, and considers Lunt’s private notes a key to finding Devil’s Body.

Now, our heroes have to gather clues contained in Nazi sorcerer’s papers before Hitler’s agents, but it would not be easy, as their opponents would not be normal soldiers or SS-men, but rather superpowered agents of the mysterious Occult Forces Project overseen by Heinrich Himmler himself.

If that wouldn’t hard enough, members of Assistance Unlimited soon realize they have another rival, who is no less dangerous than mystically powered soldiers of Hitler. That rival is mysterious and violent scourge of underworld known as The Darkling.

According to the tales whispered in the dark corners by frightened criminals, The Darkling is not a human, but rather a vengeful spirit that acts as an executioner for the forces of the underworld, and as such is immortal, invincible, and unstoppable.

Of course, more rational crooks considers those stories stupid, and absurd, but the fact is, that no one who had tried to fight the dark avenger had survived his wrath…

The story is really fast-paced, and action packed, even by Mr. Reese’s standards, with situation changing completely every few pages, as the fight for demonic body parts gets even more heated with each page, leading to brief alliances, betrayals, and reveals of uncomfortable truths.

Aside from deepening the characters of our protagonists even more, we also get several new characters, most striking among whom is certainly The Darkling.

Now, at first glance he appears a yet another clone of The Shadow, but Barry Reese once again had taken the elements we know and love, and reshaped them into something new, and fascinating.

As his famous predecessor The Darkling is a merciless vigilante taking out criminals with the help of his net of agents, as well as his trusty pistols, who cultivates a frightening reputation to unsettle his enemies, and has a fake identity of a vapid, rich playboy called Harold Grant, very reminiscent of Lamont Cranston, but his motivation, and sense of justice are drastically different than the ones connected with The Shadow.

The Darkling sees the world as just a façade behind which the truth is hidden, and according to him only men like him, who learned to look into their own souls and accept the darkness within it can see the world as it is, instead of idealized illusion we are taught to perceive.

Because of that he has no doubts, no fears or morals to chain him down, and prevent him from doing what he considers right.

But some would say he is cruel and inhuman because of that, as he does not see causing others pain, or death as something bad.
It is really hard to decide if The Darkling is a hero or the villain, because while he ultimately has good intentions, his methods, and mindset are rather extreme, even for a vigilante. Nevertheless he is an interesting opponent for Lazarus, especially since they are more alike, than it would appear at first glance.

As I mentioned above, we also get appearance of the O.F.P members, an organization that had clashed with The Peregrine before, which creates a tighter sense of continuity for the stories, in addition of giving us rather fun villains.

First, we get general Luther Strauss a.k.a Geist, who was gifted with ability to turn insubstantial after a fateful encounter with an ancient Tibetan artefact. Yet, despite his powers he remained a petty, power-hungry man who is not as strong as he likes to think he is. Nevertheless, his abilities had enabled Barry Reese to write interesting fight scenes with him, so I am sold.

Next we have member of SS called Karl Raeder, nicknamed The Silver Wolf, due to the fact that he was artificially transformed into a being similar to a werewolf, but unlike his supernatural cousins totally in control while transformed, and not limited by the phases of the moon, which made him an incredible scout, and assassin.

Unfortunately for him, he did not expect, that there are things much worse than mere werewolves…

Additionally, we also get an appearance of the old enemy of Assistance Unlimited, who also has plans for The Devil’s Body, and is not very pleased with Gray and Darkling trying to claim the price for themselves…

Aside from breakneck pace, great action scenes and characters, both old and new, we also get something rather unexpected, as Barry Reese significantly changes the status quo of Assistance Unlimited, which would have its own consequences in future installments of the story…

But spoilers are evil, so I’ll write no more.

Must read for any fan of Assistance Unlimited, or just really well written New Pulp.

Thanks for the detailed look at the volume. I think that books 2-4 really fit together well so I’m pleased that you felt the series didn’t lose any steam as it moved forward.

Reviews!

lg08_samantha_grace_smallA couple of new reviews have been added to Amazon lately so let’s take a look at what people are saying.

First up is Ray Bara with a review of Gotterdammerung:

Great Crossover Story from One of the New Pulp Masters – 5 Stars

Another great work by Barry Reese! I loved seeing all his creations (and then some) in a single volume. I loved the action. I loved seeing the Lovecraftian angle to the plot. I loved his interesting use of time travel. The one thing I disliked was the character he killed off; I hope he rectifies that in a later story. Overall, though, this was another Reese masterpiece. Go read it!

Thanks, Ray! I’m glad you enjoyed it — and the death will be a major plot point in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Six, currently scheduled to be released from Pro Se in December 2016!

Bob Deis gave five stars to Legends of New Pulp Fiction:

An amazing and significant anthology showcasing stories by the best writers and artists in the realm of “new pulp”

The editorial pilots at Airship 27 – the prolific writer/editor/publisher Ron Fortier and equally prolific artist and book designer Rob Davis – have played a major role in establishing and promoting the genre of novels, stories and comics referred to as “new pulp.” The list of new pulp books put out by their Airship 27 imprint in the past few years is jaw-dropping. For anyone who is a fan of that genre, or interested in learning about it, their amazing anthology LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is a must-read. It includes stories by more than 60 of the best writers in the broad and diverse realm of new pulp, plus top notch illustrations by nearly 40 talented artists. This is a massive and significant book, almost 800 pages long. The stories cover just about every niche in the new pulp realm, from fantasy to exotic adventure to neo-noir. It’s the kind of book that is normally a retrospective of a genre, like an anthology of classic science fiction stories. In this case it showcases stories by the writers and illustrators who are creating a new genre that will someday be viewed as classic. You can’t read all the stories in the book in a short period of time. But whenever you’re in the mood for some good, new-fashioned, escapist pulp, you’ll enjoy being able to read one of the stories in LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. I know I have.

It was an honor to contribute to this collection, Bob. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Our art today depicts Samantha Grace from Assistance Unlimited and is by George Sellas.

The Crossover Novel: The Story of the Art

gravedigger

I started writing Gotterdammerung back in late 2013 and during the course of its creation I had a  number of different artists attached to it. The cover was drawn by Chris Batista, one of my favorite comic artists, and was completed long before the writing was finished. He nailed our three leads perfectly and then Tom Smith added colors to it, making it one of my favorite Reese Unlimited images.

Mark Propst was originally going to do interiors for the book but had to bow out for personal reasons – though he later returned and did some sketches for it. I also considered my long-time collaborator George Sellas, of course, and even had a complete newcomer that would have made his professional debut with some of the interior pieces.

In the end, though, we were lucky enough to snag Mitch Ballard! Mitch has a style that’s clearly influenced by George Perez and that’s hardly a bad thing. Perez is the master of the crossover comic and Mitch brought that sensibility to this, my own little Crisis on Infinite Earths pulp novel. Mitch contributed solo images of Gravedigger, The Peregrine, The Black Terror and Lazarus Gray – and he’s also working on a group Assistance Unlimited shot that will probably appear in volume 7 of that series.

While I hope that the story will find approval from all of my fans, I have no doubt that the artwork will please even the most jaded of pulp readers. Batista and Ballard knocked it out of the park and – along with the excellent design work provided by the Pro Se staff – the book LOOKS gorgeous, no matter how it reads!